On February 19, 1861, Tsar Alexander II signed the manifesto abolishing serfdom. Sixty-eight years later, on November 7, 1929, Pravda published an article by Stalin, “The Year of the Great Turning Point,” that heralded the peasantry’s return to a state closely resembling slavery.
By 1929, the effort to drive peasants into kolkhozes had been under way for almost two years, ever since the 15th Party Congress had adopted a plan to collectivize agriculture. One sign of the turning point discussed in the article was that “middle peasants” (середняки, the moderately well-off peasants that made up the bulk of the rural population) were now, supposedly, buying into the party line, giving up their private farming operations, and joining kolkhozes to further the cause of collectivization.
What came in the wake of Stalin’s article was horrific. Since the majority of peasants were now supposedly going along with collectivization, there was no reason to show laggards the slightest mercy. The article marked the beginning of the brutal policy of “total collectivization” and the emergence of the slogan, “We will destroy the kulak as a class,” a politically correct way of saying “We will kill the kulaks,” which is how the slogan was often applied.
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